Tag Archives: raids

MoP – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I know we’ve likely still got 6 months to go before Warlords of Draenor is released and Mists of Pandaria is officially over, but honestly, the end feels overdue already. I thought this would be a good time to look back at the expansion and think about what aspects were great and which ones were not so good.

The Good

1. Pandaria is beautiful. The zones are varied and interesting. From the wildlife to the landscapes, everything looked good. The final cut scene in Jade Forest took my breath away the first time I saw it, and opening up the gates to the gorgeous Vale of Eternal Blossoms for the first time was one of my favourite moments from any expansion.

2. Challenge modes. I loved doing challenge modes the first time around. Small group content that was actually challenging? Amazing. These were a whole lot of fun. I will say though, I found they lost their luster a bit after I got  my first set of golds. Maybe it was because healing them on my Druid was more challenging than dpsing on my Hunter. Maybe because by the time I got around to them on my Hunter the people I was running with had already done them so many times, and there were countless CM guides and videos out so the problem-solving aspect was gone. Either way, when these became less challenging, I found them less rewarding. But they were amazing the first time around.

3. Different types of solo content. MoP added a lot of things that people
could do to occupy themselves. Proving grounds were a nice challenge, the individual parts of the legendary quest line were unique, pet battles (more the collection aspect really) gave me a lot to do, even farms provided me with something to do for a little while. There was also Brawler’s Guild, rare hunting, and many treasures to find.

4. Raid content, for the most part, was good. There were a lot of different,  interesting bosses. The devs played with some new mechanics and gimmicks (some successful, some not). I found tier to be 14 the strongest raid tier (even though it didn’t last long enough), buts tiers 15 and 16 had their shining spots as well.

The Bad

1. The grind. MoP had a lot of grindy components – dailies, rep, valor, coins, lesser charms. That kind of thing is never really enjoyable. However, I’m putting this in the ‘bad’ category instead of ‘ugly’ because it wasn’t that huge a deal. I know many raiders claim they were forced to do everything all the time, but I’m not one of them. I didn’t want to do Golden Lotus dailies when MoP launched, so I didn’t. I lived. My raid killed bosses. Besides, by the time you farmed the rep and the valor to get that revered for that chest or ring you wanted, one would drop for you in raid the very next day – that’s how it works.

2. Legendary Cloaks. How do you make a legendary item feel anything but legendary? Give it to everyone. Then give it to all of their alts. Besides feeling completely unspecial, making the legendary so ubiquitous also meant that if you wanted to raid occasionally on an alt (especially as a dps) you basically needed the legendary to be at all viable. If you didn’t want to grind through item collection, rep and valor, you pretty much had to resign yourself to the fact that your output would suck. I did find that 90% of the legendary questline was enjoyable – but only once.

3. All the things that made guild/raid administration so much harder than it needed to be.

  • Some raid encounters (heroic Ji-Kun, Dark Animus, Spoils of Pandaria) required spreadsheets in order to organize everyone. It went so far beyond “assign x healer to use a cooldown, y dps to interrupt this mob, and group z to stand here” it was ridiculous. The 9 different mobs in the Paragons of the Klaxxi encounter have a total of roughly 40 different abilities. I killed those guys a dozen times on normal and never actually understood what was going on.
  • Things like Thunderforged/Warforged gear and the ability for raiders to coin loot made loot systems more difficult to deal with.
  • Six different ilvls of loot in a tier and four different raid difficulties.
  • Raid comp requirements varied wildly from fight to fight. Some fights heavily favoured comps with lots of rogues and hunters, some were better with many warlocks (most of them, really). Heroic Thok required 8 healers. Garrosh – 3 or 4. What are those other 5 healers supposed to do? 
  • All of the raid meta achievements that had multiple requirements (like Megaera, Lei Shen, Dark Animus trash) made getting people their metas in raid complicated and repetitive. I didn’t even get mine in ToT, and I’m the GM who rarely missed a raid :(

The Ugly

1. Spending a year in the last tier of content. I know, I’m a broken record on this, but it’s awful piled on top of more awful because it’s the 3rd time it’s happened. People are bored and it’s a problem.

2. Healing became a game of cooldowns and button mashing. During the first tier of the expansion, healing was interesting. Mana mattered, I used most of the spells in my spellbook. As time went on this changed and healing turned into spam all the AoE/smart heals all the time. Very dull. Healing was also made less interesting my the amount of non-healer raid cooldowns available. With 3 offpsec HTTs, a few DAs, a boomkin to Tranq and a Warrior or two to do all the things they do, the way to defeat harder encounters usually involved dropping healers. I thought I’d be a healer forever, but the progression of healing in MoP managed to drive me into a dps role.

3. Lag and disconnects. There were a few things in the game that caused some awful lag, especially in 25s. Things like smart heals and Stampede were blamed, though they apparently got fixed. Lag stuck my raid most fiercely on Lei Shen and Siegecrafter, and we lost more than a few raid nights to it, as the game was basically unplayable for some people. It’s one thing to not kill a boss because people couldn’t perform adequately, it’s another to not kill it because half your raid has so much lag they can’t move out of spell effects fast enough.


 

Those are the highs and lows that stand out for me in MoP. What parts of the expansion did you love or hate?

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Patch 5.4 and Siege of Orgrimmar was released on September 10, 2013. We’ve been in there for 4 months so far but to me it feels more like 4 years.

This week we learned that there is another PVP season planned during Mists. This means we’re likely looking at another 6 months in Siege of Orgrimmar before Warlord of Draenor comes out. At least. Blizzard does a lot of things well, but pacing their raid content releases is not one of them.

The most recent three expansions have had a pretty distinct pattern when it came to time spent in a tier vs. number of encounters available in that tier. The first tier goes quick. There are a lot of encounters, but the tier isn’t current for that long. In the middle tier, the ratio of encounters:time goes down – the tier stays current for roughly the same amount of time (give or take a month), but there are less bosses to fight. In the final tier of an expansion that encounter:time ratio drops even more. We get more bosses than the middle tier, but the tier drags on for 10-12 months while we wait for the next expansion to be released.

Wrath of the Lich King
Tier 7  (5 months, 18 encounters – 3.6 encounters/month)
Tier 8  (3.5 months, 23 encounters 6.6 encounters/month)
Tier 9  (4 months, 11 encounters – 2.75 encounters/month)
Tier 10 (1 year, 26 encounters – 2.2 encounters/month)  

Cataclysm
Tier 11 (6.5 months, 25 encounters – 3.8 encounters/month)
Tier 12 (5 months, 14 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)
Tier 13 (10 months, 16 encounters – 1.6 encounters/month)

Mists of Pandaria
Tier 14 (5 months, 32 encounters – 6.4 encounters/month)
Tier 15 (6 months, 25 encounters – 4.2 encounters/month)
Tier 16 (10 months?, 28 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)

Tier 8 (Ulduar) in Wrath of the Lich King is an outlier in this – an example of creating a tier that was amazing in both quality and quantity, but then pushing it to the background with another tier extremely quickly. WotLK is also a bit of an anomaly in that it was the only time in any expansion (or original WoW) that we got 4 raid tiers.

The question is…why the hell do they keep doing this?

I can understand some front-loading of content. When a new expansion comes out, having a ton of new content is going to help convince people to purchase it. But they need to spread the content out better. Here’s what my generally mindset looks like as expansions proceed:

Game is released
“Oh my god, there’s so much to do! Level! Get rep! Get enough gear to start raiding! Try to check out the new features that were introduced.”

First raid tier ends
“I wish it had lasted longer! I’m sure my raid could have defeated a couple more raid bosses if we had an extra month, and there’s still so much other stuff to do.”

Second raid tier ends
“I feel good about this tier. We had a decent amount of time to progress, and I’m ready for a change of scenery.”

Six months into the final raid tier
“Is this tier ever going to end? Can we hear some news about when the next expansion is coming? Pleeeease.”

Eight to twelve months into the final raid tier
“I’m so bored, we killed everything months ago and playing has been a huge waste of my life for the last few months. Fuck this fucking game, I hate it.”

They need to learn to hold something back. Maybe instead of having 3 raid instances at the start of the xapc, only put out 2 and save one for the last tier. I know I’m not the only one who gets bored doing the same, single raid for almost a year.

Mists of Pandaria also had the least amount of raid zones. In Burning Crusade we had 8 different raids – Karazhan, Magtheridon’s Lair, Gruul’s Lair, Serpentshrine Cavern, Tempest Keep, Hyjal, Black temple and Sunwell. Some of these only had one or two bosses, but 8 raids make for a tremendous amount of variety in scenery, lore and types of bosses encountered. It makes things much more interesting. In Wrath of the Lich King there were 9 different raids. In Cataclysm we had only 6 raid zones. In Mists? Only 5, and 3 of them were squished into the first 5 months. This made for a lot of monotony over the next 10 months.

Is providing varied, interesting raid zones becoming less of a priority?  It seems that in Warlords, a lot of attention is being paid to allowing people to raid in 700 different ways (LFR, normal, heroic, flex, cross-realm, mythic). How much attention will be paid to the variety and amount of raid zones themselves?

After the original release and four expansions, will Blizzard ever learn how to not suck at timing their raid content releases?

Timing is Everything

Today we got the news that patch 5.2 will be dropping in the last week of February. Usually, I’m not too critical of decisions made by Blizzard. In fact, I usually am on the verge of being a Blizzard apologist. This game has kept me interested and entertained for 7 years, there’s not much else I can say that about. But I have to say, sometimes their timing just sucks.

I think Tier 15 being released after less than 5 months is too soon. Much too soon. I would like some more time to work on T14 heroics, I feel like my raid can progress more before we run into a brick wall and are itching for the new tier to come out. And I don’t think we’re alone.

WoWProgress has tracked the progress of ~39,000 guilds. Of those, 29.5% have completed all normal modes and 1% have completed all heroic modes. This isn’t a lot. I think many guilds out there would benefit from a little more time in the current tier.

I had this exchange on Twitter once I learned about 5.2′s release date:

5.2 release date from Bashiok
Releasing a new raid tier every 5 months is an admirable goal, but all raid tiers are not created equal. The quantity and quality of the content available need to be taken into consideration when deciding when to push out the next tier.

Let’s take Tiers 8 & 9 as an example. They were current content for roughly the same amount of time, but they shouldn’t have been. Ulduar was a beautifully designed, lore-rich raid instance with great boss fights and clever ways of accessing heroic modes. TotC was a single room with no trash mobs and only 5 unique fights. Three and a half months in Ulduar did not feel nearly long enough.  Four months in TotC was enough to make me never want to step foot in that raid again.

Having only 5 months in the particular case of Tier 14 is problematic for three main reasons:

  1. The tier is HUGE! 16 normal + 16 heroic encounters is a lot of bosses to work through, the most bosses we’ve ever had at one time. Five months isn’t enough.
  2. Aside from the raids, players have had a ton of content to work on since the launch of Mists – gearing, rep grinds, dailies, lesser charms, dungeons, scenarios, challenge modes, new BGs, arenas, brawler’s guild, pet battles. Of course I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel like it’s only recently that I’ve had time to take a breath and spend more time doing non-raid related things or working on alts. There’s still a lot I’d like to do before jumping into the gear/valor grind to prepare myself for a new tier of content.
  3. It means we’re going to be subjected to front-loaded raid content for the 3rd expansion in a row.

There has been a very obvious pattern for the release of raid content over the last 3 expansions:

  • The first tier of the expansion features a large number of unique raid bosses, spread out through multiple raid instances.
  • The middle tier(s) feature less raid bosses in less raid instances and are current for a shorter amount of time.
  • The last tier is a single raid instance and is current for a very long time before the next expansion is released.

Unless some major changes in priorities and allocation of resources has taken place in Mists, I’m anticipating these trends will continue and we’ll again be in the final tier for much longer than anybody wants to be.

When thinking about the ideal amount of time to spend in one raid tier before the next is introduced, we really need to consider how many encounters are in that tier. Let’s take a look at the amount of time each tier lasted and compare the length of time to the number of encounters available:

Tier 7  (5 months, 18 encounters – 3.6 encounters/month)
Tier 8  (3.5 months, 23 encounters 6.6 encounters/month)
Tier 9  (4 months, 11 encounters – 2.75 encounters/month)
Tier 10 (1 year, 26 encounters – 2.2 encounters/month) 
Tier 11 (6.5 months, 25 encounters – 3.8 encounters/month)
Tier 12 (5 months, 14 encounters – 2.8 encounters/month)
Tier 13 (10 months, 16 encounters – 1.6 encounters/month)
Tier 14 (4.75 months, 32 encounters – 6.7 encounters/month)

*I’m counting heroic versions of bosses as their own encounters, and have not included world bosses or the bosses in VoA/TB*

I think that everyone can agree that 1 year in ICC and 10 months in Dragon Soul was way too long. By comparison, Ulduar and Tier 14 were current for far too short a time. I think a good ratio for boss fights to months spent in a tier is around 4:1. That’s about 1 encounter per week. The raid tiers that are around this ratio (Tiers 7 and 11) are the ones that made me feel neither rushed, nor like I was sitting around waiting for new content for an inordinate amount of time.

Raid tier release timing could be much better. Just because PTR testing is complete, doesn’t mean you need to release the next raid content patch immediately. You can hold something back. Slow down the release of the first couple tiers (but keep working on the next!) so we don’t have to spend a year in the last one. Just imagine how much more enjoyable raiding in Wrath could have been if the release schedule had been just a little bit different. Spending 6 months in Naxx, 6 months in Ulduar and only 9 months in ICC certainly would have made my raid time in Wrath more fulfilling and resulted in much less burnout at the end.

Putting an end to Tier 14 so soon is a bad idea.

Raids – Business or Personal?

What is your ideal raid group?

Mine is a group of highly competent people who enjoy each others company (or at least tolerate each other), are progression-minded, and have the drive to get things done while treating each other with respect. The question is – do raids like this exist? Am I expecting too much?

I think there are two basic categories of raid groups: family style or business style.

The family style raids are the ones where everyone gets along and has fun with what they’re doing. Some people may not have the absolute best dps or raid awareness, but these raids work with what they’ve got because they’re more concerned with the people than the progression.

The business-style raids focus on results rather than people. If your dps is too low, if you die in the fire one too many times, you’re out. These guilds are not tolerant of mistakes and poor performance, no matter how likable the person making the mistakes is. Do your job or step aside for someone who will.

Of course, these two raid styles are very black and white and I think most raids (including every raid I’ve ever been a part of) fall somewhere in the middle. I assume that getting bosses down in a timely manner is something most people hope for, but it doesn’t always happen. What separates raid groups  is how problems are addressed.

No raid aims to progress slowly and wipe to silly things multiple times, but many will not take the steps necessary to reduce the chances these things happen. How do you reduce the chances these things happen? There’s proper preparation – well thought out strats that are shared with the guild pre-raid and discussed and tweaked until they work. There’s proper class balance to make things as smooth as possible. And then there’s the people you choose to bring to raids.

Other people are both the best and the worst thing about raiding. I’ve met a lot of fantastic people and made a lot of friends through raiding. I’ve also come close to being overtaken by homicidal urges towards some people I’ve met through raiding.

I’m a progression-minded raider. I’m competitive. I’m not perfect but I do everything I can to be the best healer I can be – to heal all the things and stay out of all the fires. At the end of a raid I want people to think to themselves “gee, I wish Jasyla was in the raid all the time, she makes things easier.” If they’re not thinking that, I’m not doing my job.

So what happens when the progression-focused, competitive raiders come across people in their raids who don’t have the same level of motivation, understanding and skill? What happens when you run into raiders that make you think “gee, I wish this person weren’t here”? In the guilds who are all business these players will be dealt with. Their performance will be called out and if they don’t improve they’ll be replaced. But in most guilds it’s not so easy. These people stick around for one reason or another. It could be because the raid leaders really have no other choice because there’s no one to replace them. It could be because they’re popular in the guild, no matter what their raid performance is like. It’s hard to tell someone they’re not good enough.

There are more cutthroat guilds out there, who can be ruthless about who they take to raids to ensure the best progression possible. These raids are like a well-oiled machine, killing bosses left and right and getting those server and world firsts. Sounds fantastic. But if you look a little closer, those raids aren’t all sunshine and ponies either. Take the BlizzCon live raid for example. Though Blood Legion’s run of Firelands looked perfect, according to everyone who listened to the raid with voice streaming Vent was full of people screaming profanities and racial slurs. That really taints an otherwise pristine run.

I’d like for the people I raid with to be friends, but at the same time I wonder if that negatively affects progression. Personal feelings create biases and skew perceptions. You need distance to accurately evaluate a raider and decide whether or not they deserve a place in your raid.

Can these things be reconciled? Can you have a group of people who enjoy raiding together and respect each other while still having the determination to cut out the weak links in order to get ahead?

Would guilds benefit from saying flat-out what type of raid they’re trying to run so everyone’s expectations are set?